Last week, I wrote about the negative impacts that stress can have on your life, your heart, and your general health. If you missed last week’s post on the negative impact of stress, be sure to check it out as well!
This week, I wanted to focus on what we CAN do to reduce the stress in our lives. After all, it’s nice to hear sometimes about the power we have over our own situations, other than what can so often feel like a “we’re all screwed!” type of pronouncement. Breathe easier, my friends, because the truth is, we’re NOT all screwed, and we DO have the power to make some changes, however big or small, to improve our lives, reduce our stress, and just plain feel better.
Without further ado, here’s my short list:
- Do less. That’s right, I said it. First thing on the list means it’s the MOST important! If even the thought of trying to do less sounds overwhelming, let’s break it down a little more. Think of all the tasks, activities, etc, that fill your day. Now, narrow that list down to all the things that don’t ABSOLUTELY HAVE to be done each day. From that list, choose 2-3 things you could remove from your daily routine. Start small, and build from there. Even freeing up just 5 minutes a day for yourself can be a huge step in the right direction!
- Find a community. Find a community of people you can connect with who take your mind off work and the other woes of life. Or even people you can SHARE the woes of life with. Feeling loved and accepted can make a huge difference both in our outlook on life, how we feel about ourselves, and how our body processes and perceives stress. Positive community is important!
- Go outside. Sunlight, grass, plants, nature, and fresh air can work wonders. Even better if you can dig in the dirt, take off your shoes, and get off concrete.
- Snuggle. A pet, a person, it doesn’t matter. Pick one or both. Snuggling reduces the level of stress hormones in our bodies and the added relaxation helps to reset and regulate our nervous system. Heads up, the nervous system is what regulates our stress levels and stress response. So the healthier our nervous systems, the less stress we experience.
- Light exercise. Take 5 minutes to turn off your devices, stretch and move. Choose a gentle exercise, nothing too harsh, just something sweet that makes you feel better.
- Meditate, do yoga, or both. The science is out there, all around out there now actually. The benefits are proven. Just find a teacher and a class you enjoy, trust and connect with. Added bonus – meditation and yoga typically come with whole communities of their own. And you don’t have to be super hippie-dippie or a spiritual guru to participate!
- Drink water and eat nourishing food. Stress effects our hormones and the way our bodies process nutrients. Interesting to note, sugar and certain foods also impact our hormones. Eating plenty of fruits and veggies and drinking plenty of healthy liquids can help our bellies feel better, and reset and regulate our hormones. Which in turns helps with our stress. So rather than reach for a box of cookies, try a fruit smoothie with spinach and kale and some all natural protein powder instead. That way you can have the sweetness of fruit but with nutrients that will actually give you energy and help you feel better throughout your day. Make sure you SIT STILL while you eat too. Eating when you’re relaxed (AKA sitting) also changes the way your body can digest and process nutrients.
Remember: You don’t have to do everything on this list. Please don’t let this list of options to try become yet another source for stress, frustration, or measuring yourself up and feeling like you’re falling short! Pick one and see how it works for you.
Reducing our stress and rebuilding our life in a healthier way is a lot like climbing a flight of stairs. You have to take each step one at a time. I mean, you could always try to hop a couple steps like kids do sometimes, but I find, especially as we age, skipping steps often leads to more injuries than anything else haha :).
So just try one at a time.